By Mr. Keith Pannell (TRADOC)December 7, 2007
Since the Global War on Terrorism began shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, the spotlight has been squarely on the men and women in uniform.
Since then, the general feeling in the American public has been, "Whether you support the war or not, support the troops."
That sentiment expresses exactly how singer/songwriter John Ondrasik feels.
"What we as artists do pales in comparison. I can't fire a cannon," he said. "But, I can go over and thank those who do."
Ondrasik is the Grammy Award-nominated voice behind Five for Fighting. In fact, he IS Five for Fighting. He uses other musicians and backing vocals as needed for his songs. The phrase "Five for Fighting," is a hockey term that usually refers to a five minute major penalty for fighting during a game.
Ondrasik didn't speak with the Cannoneer about, or promote, his own music. He talked about his latest project, a compilation disc of popular artists put together for military members, appropriately titled, "For the Troops."
No military contact
The singer said before 9/11, he didn't have much to do with the military. He had no military in his family and none of his friends were military and he had never entertained the thought of signing up.
"I had nothing to do with the military before the 9/11 concert, when I met a bunch of them," Ondrasik said. "But, I saw how some of my song resonated with them, and I met them and I corresponded with them and I became interested in them and their jobs and it was natural that I gravitated to them."
Ondrasik said he was inspired to put together an album for the troops after watching someone else do it. He thought, "what a great idea."
"I see in my USO tours that music can make a difference," Ondrasik said. "For us to gather some of the most popular stars in pop music to give a song and say thank you, I think that's important to do."
Even though it was released around Thanksgiving, the album Ondrasik put together is not a Christmas album. He said he called artists, or "their people," and asked for whatever they wanted to give. He said everyone was happy to provide songs for the CD.
The album features Billy Joel's classic "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant"; Brooks and Dunn's "Keep on Swinging"; Five for Fighting's "100 Years"; the Goo Good Dolls' "Feel the Silence"; Jewel's "Hands"; Josh Groban's "February Song"; Los Lonely Boys' "Heaven"; Melissa Etheridge's "Come to My Window"; the Neville Brothers' "Brothers"; Sarah McLachlan's "Winter Song"; Gary Sinise's Lt. Dan Band's "Sweet Home Chicago"; Montgomery Gentry's "My Town"; and The Fray's "How to Save a Life."
Ondrasik said the artists and the publishing companies that put the songs out, have donated the tunes, not making any royalties or charging any fees for using the songs.
"That's just unheard of in this industry," he said.
How to get it
More than 200,000 CDs were made and are being sent to Iraq, Afghanistan and post exchanges around the world. According to Angjelica Kjaw, Fort Sill AAFES general manager, there are still a few of the discs left at the Fort Sill PX.
Ondrasik said the easiest way for military members and their families to get the music is to log on to AAFES.com, click on the "CD For the Troops" icon and they can download the music for free.
He said since working with military members, he has gotten to know many of them. He takes his wife and children to military installations in his home-state of California to educate the family about the military and the cost of freedom.
"The families change me as much as the Soldiers on the ground," Ondrasik said. "They inspire me. Sometimes, in a celebrity culture you get put up on a pedestal because it's all about you. But, you look at these (military members and families) who are doing it under the radar, they don't get the recognition, doing a job that allows us as performers to speak our minds [Long Dash] to write a song, to write a script, to put out our vision of our world. It's humbling and, sometimes, I think the spotlight goes in the wrong place."